Sunday, June 04, 2023

(weeklytefilahfocus.com) We recite Aleinu daily, many of us three times a day; perhaps because we have grown so accustomed to saying it, many of us unfortunately do not appreciate the significance and importance of this tefillah. In fact, we are often mentally on our way to the next part of our day as we fly through this awesome tefillah. 

Aleinu is one of our earliest tefillot. It was composed by Yehoshua bin Nun. The Anshei Knesset Hagedola instituted its inclusion in the Malchuyot section of tefillat Musaf on Rosh Hashanah.  Over the next five weeks, we will continue, b’ezrat Hashem, to focus on this tefillah, which plays such a prominent role in our Rosh Hashanah tefillot. The fact that it does play such an important role should be enough to get us motivated to improve our focus each time we say Aleinu during Elul. 

The Malchuyot section of Musaf is not an independent bracha, but rather is included within the section of Kedushat Hayom. The reason this is so is that the very essence of Rosh Hashanah is accepting Hashem’s Kingship: kabbalat ol malchut Shamayim (Harav Chaim Friedlander, Rinat Chaim).  This is the “ikar mehut hayom v’avodato,” (the primary essence of the day and its service), according to HaRav Friedlander.

Many, when thinking about Rosh Hashanah, would say that “judgment” is the essence of the day.  In fact, Rosh Hashanah is referred to as Yom HaDin (the Day of Judgment). Harav Friedlander explains that our judgment is based on the degree to which we are willing to accept Hashem’s Kingship over ourselves. Certainly, we are davening for the revelation of Hashem’s Kingship in the world at large. Indeed, we spend a good part of the Malchuyot tefillah requesting this.  However, the truth is that it is easier to accept Hashem’s Kingship upon the world at large than it is to live our personal lives as Hashem’s servants. Everything we do, say and think must be filtered by “What does Hashem want me to do in this situation?” We must realize that we make hundreds of decisions daily, many of them subconsciously, and we need to ask ourselves if we are ready to decide every one of these queries based on our understanding of what Hashem’s will is in this situation. Are we willing to ask a rav when we are uncertain how the Torah instructs us to act in this case? Our willingness to subjugate our will to the will of Hashem is the essence of our service, and our judgment on Rosh Hashanah is dependent on the degree to which we accept to do so.

Aleinu was chosen to be the lead tefillah of Malchuyot, the core section of the core tefillah for Rosh Hashanah. The Aron HaKodesh is opened during Aleinu, which the Levush says is like being in the Kodesh HaKodashim in the Beit Hamikdash.  Let us conclude this week with the Mishnah Berurah (Siman 132:2 s”k 8, quoting Matei Moshe):

יש לומר עלינו באימה וביראה כי כל צבא השמים שומעים והקב”ה עומד עם פמליא של מעלה וכולם עונים ואומרים אשרי העם שככה לו אשרי העם כו’—One should say Aleinu with dread and fear. This is because the entire host of Heaven hear it and the Holy One, Blessed be He, stands with His celestial entourage and they all respond by saying, “Happy is the people for whom it is thus, happy is the people, etc.” 

This passage of the Mishnah Berurah is speaking about the every day reciting of Aleinu as well.  When we say Aleinu down here, we have some incredible company from Above!

Weekly Tefillah Focus is endorsed by HaRav Noach Isaac Oelbaum, rav, posek, and author of Sefarim in KGH Queens. The written material is sourced from sefarim including: Nafshi Cholat Ahavotecha and Tallelei Orot (which compile writings of Chazal, Rishonim and Achronim), Harav Avigdor Miller, zt”l, Harav Avrohom Chaim Feuer and others.

Weekly segments and archives are available on our website weeklytefilahfocus.com and the OU Torah website.

Audio is presented on TorahAnytime by Harav Mordechai Finkelman, mashgiach ruchani at Yeshivast Ohr Hachaim in KGH Queens.

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